If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you’ve seen Stand-Up Paddle-boarding or SUPing before. Beginner or Expert this is a great resource for what to look for in a board. Every rider is a different size, weight, shape and ability level. This is also true for boards. Each board is designed with a specific purpose in mind. With so many different boards out there, it really depends on your paddling goals and ability level as to which board is best for you.
Types of boards:
There are two main types of boards: Racing/Touring and All Around/Yoga.
Racing/touring boards are typically longer and narrower allowing the board to glide through the water with greater speed. These boards have a displacement hull, meaning the nose(front) of the board has a “V” shape to them. This shape displaces the water around the hull, letting the SUP cut cleanly through the water. If you plan to race, paddle long distances, or paddle on choppy, open water I recommend a racing/touring board with a displacement hull.
All around/yoga boards tend to be shorter, and wider. These boards have a planing hull, meaning the bottom of the boards are flat with a rounded nose. Instead of cutting through the water like the displacement hull, these boards push the water forward creating a very small wave that the board then surges forward on while you paddle forward. These boards are designed for quick turning, surfing waves and yoga. This style board is generally better for carrying an extra rider.
Size of board:
Boards come in all sizes. The volume of a board takes into account its length, width and thickness. A larger person will need a higher volume board to feel stable on it, while a small person may have trouble controlling that same board. Find one that fits you, most manufacturers make several different sizes in the same board. Make sure you get the one that is the right fit for you. If you are a beginner, look into a wider board, it will feel more stable until you are comfortable on it. If you are comfortable on a SUP and want to go faster, look for a longer, narrower board.
SUPs can be made a few different ways, each have their downfalls.
First, a SUP can be made from thick plastic with air in the center. These boards are cheap and durable, but are heavy and usually lack in performance. If you want a board for the kids to drop on rocks, load 10 people on board, and have your favorite furry friends scratch the surface with their nails, a plastic board may be the way to go.
Second, a SUP can be be made with a thin layer of plastic over foam. These are lightweight and durable, but pricey.
Third, a SUP can be made with fiberglass over foam. Depending on construction, these boards tend to be the lightest. They are also the least durable. Gently hitting a rock while getting off your board can damage some of these boards.
Fourth, the newest type of SUPs are inflatables. These use the same type of material a whitewater raft uses. They are very durable, but are not as rigid as the other boards. While moving around on these boards, you may get a bit of a trampoline effect. As the construction of these boards improve, they are becoming more and more rigid.
SUPs have one, three or four fins and can be easily removed. One large fin is used for flatwater paddling to help the board track in a straight line. This one single fin varies in length and shape, but is generally between 9-15”. A three fin configuration (one large and two smaller side bites) is used for surfing where the side bites help propel the board forward. Lastly, a four fin configuration (no large center fin) is used for surfing as well.
Carrying your board:
All boards come with at least one handle. Each company has a slightly different handle. Some are more comfortable to hold than others. The weight of the board also determines how comfortable it will be to carry. Don’t let the weight of the board determine which board you choose. There are plenty of ways to load and move your board around without bearing the full weight of it.